Ever since lineup mainstays Bryce Harper and Jayson Werth landed on the DL, the Nationals have been struggling to break out offensively. The team has had very few timely hits with runners in scoring position, and has been scoring few runs as a result. Sunday’s game was no different as the Nationals scored just three runs en route to a loss in the rubber game of the series.
Of course, three runs would always be enough for a victory if the Nats would pitch to their potential. Nathan Karns(0-1),forced into the rotation because of an injury to Ross Detweiler, remained unable to make it out of the fifth inning as he went just 4.2 innings for the second time in two starts. Karns hasyet to show off the dominant ability that led to his being named a top 100 MLB prospect and he gave up four runs in 4.2 innings Sunday afternoon.
Karns’ trouble started early Sunday afternoon. After Andrelton Simmons led off the game by reaching on Ryan Zimmeman’s 10th error of the year, Ramiro Pena lined a Karns fastball over the right field wall for an early 2-0 lead. The Nats tied up the game in the second inning on an RBI double by Tyler Moore and on a catching error by Atlanta starter Paul Maholm(7-4).
In the bottom of the second inning however, B.J. Upton, owner of a historically low .153 average, belted a 94 mph fastball into the left field bleachers to regain an Atlanta lead. Karns would then pitch well for 2 more innings before departing in the fifth after allowing 7 hits and a walk while throwing 88 pitches. Zach Duke entered and promptly gave up a run scoring single to Brian McCann before inducing a third out.
Ian Desmond reduced Atlanta’s lead to 4-3 with a booming home run off a 73-mph curveball and the Nats appeared to be coming back into the game. Duke ended those thoughts in the bottom of the inning by loading the bases and serving up a long two run double to Freddie Freeman. While the double was reviewed under instant replay, the call on the field stayed and the Nats were down 6-3. Craig Kimbrel pitched a 1-2-3 ninth for his 17th save of the season.
The Nationals will look to get back on track Tuesday night as they return home to face the New York Mets. It will be a battle of young right handers as Jordan Zimmerman(8-3, 2.37) will oppose Jeremy Hefner(1-5, 4.74). Zimmerman will look to rebound from an awful outing against the Baltimore Orioles and Jeremy Hefner looks to show Mets management that he deserves a rotation spot. With top prospect Zach Wheeler expected to join the rotation in coming weeks, either Hefner or Dillon Gee will be out of a rotation spot.